Sunday night the Japan Society, Gohan Society, and SIP Japan together hosted a nomi hodai (all you can drink) shochu event at Apartment 13, a restaurant in Alphabet City. Ten different distillers attended and each brought 3 to 5 different brands of shochu to share. On top of shochu neat, on the rocks, and with water, you could also try specialty cocktails made by house mixologists. Apartment 13 also had free appetizers that were both creative and varied. Basics like black cod worked well with shochu and they made it possible to try out raw oysters with shochu. It was an extremely rewarding pairing!
It was very evident that the distillers had their own employees staffing the event. Everyone was incredibly knowledgeable about their product and about shochu in general. There were two standouts from the night. Helios Distillery had a Kokuto (brown sugar) ume shu that takes a sweet drink and makes it sweeter… but in a good way. Another big surprise was Iichiko. To be honest, up until Sunday all I’ve tasted from Iichiko was their Iichiko Silhouette. This is one of the most mass produced shochu brands, made by the largest Japanese shochu makers in the world. Silhouette was not a memorable experience, so I believed that their other brands were also very well marketed and unremarkable. This was not the case. Kurobin was definitely an entertaining experience, and my reaction to one sip of Frasco was that it is “dangerous”. Iichiko Frasco is one of the highest proof brands of shochu and it is extremely easy to drink. Frasco reminded me of an extremely expensive vodka. Reviews coming soon.
Check out the pictures of the event below. They show the event far better than I can describe. If attending one of these events in the future, it definitely pays to show up on time or even early. We were one of the first to arrive and had 7 distillers and 3 waitresses at our complete disposal for half an hour. The level of attention was definitely worth the awkwardness of showing up to the party early.
Distiller prepping for the evening
Satsuma Shuzo’s offering for the evening.
The mixed drink selections
Bartender hard at work
Iichiko’s table for the evening
The shochu on the right is a IWC award winner… that currently is not available in America.
This is Helios Shuzo’s table. They had the unique kokuto Ume Shu.
Last Friday’s Shochu Omakase at Sakamai was great fun. With the better half feeling a bit under the weather I headed off to this event by myself with the expectation of trying a new shochu and making it an early night. Having arrived at the event, I was greeted by the event planner for Sakamai, and then introduced to Jesse Falowitz, one of the managing partners for Mizu Shochu. He gave me a quick introduction to his brand and then placed me at the bar in front of Raphael Reyes, the mixologist responsible for the mixed drinks of the evening. The staff proactively tried to make sure that most guests were given the same round of introductions.
With Haamonii Shochu now discontinued and EvenStar not available in New York City, I was excited to try my first shochu with American roots. Jesse and his partner devised the product and have it produced by Munemasa Distillery in Arita Japan. It is their belief that one of the hindrances to shochu’s popularity in America is that shochu tends to be 40 to 50 proof and Americans prefer a stronger distilled beverage. Though shochu does tend to be a bit weaker than western liquor, I must say that shochu available in America tends to be even weaker than shochu in Japan. I’ve even noticed that the exact same product exported to America is more diluted.
Mizu Shochu is what is called a genshu shochu, this means that it is not diluted from cask strength when bottling. At 70 proof, it’s certainly stronger than most shochu available in America, and ranks right up there with Lees or Awamori I’ve had in Japan. What’s interesting is that Mizu shochu’s smooth flavor does not disclose its added proof straight away. It is surprisingly smooth for being almost 50% stronger than many other shochu available here. Though we will wait for a full review of the shochu for proper conditions, I will say that the smooth carmel nature of this shochu makes it satisfying on the rocks.
Besides Mizu Shochu on the rocks, the other three drinks were hand crafted by Raphael Reyes. Though the “Ginza Rose” was a bit too sweet for my tastes, the “Sunset in the Garden of Edo” and “Kyushu Belle” were both incredibly satisfying. The “Sunset” had a spicy tomato base that reminded me of a refreshing bloody mary and the “Kyushu Belle” had amazing bell pepper and pepper spice flavors that are not often present in a shochu based drink. In order to serve the large crowd present on Friday evening, some of the artisan drinks were mixed before the event started. I would have enjoyed seeing how all of these drinks went together.
So I’ve previously mentioned that Sakamai creates exciting events but have had problems attending them all due to the short notice I have when I discover them online. I saw this event on Tuesday, and though that’s not a huge amount of notice, I hadn’t made plans for Friday and the fact that this event is at 10pm means that work really shouldn’t interfere. The event, as mentioned in this post’s title, is at Sakamai on the Lower East Side at the corner of Ludlow and Stanton.
Starting out with the important aspect of cost, the fee is $35 online @ http://liquid-omakase.bpt.me and $40 at the door. This gets you 3 cocktails made by Raphael Reyes and one pour of Mizu Shochu. Though I generally like the idea of most events at Sakamai, the fact that this one is also sponsored by Mizu Shochu also further peaked my interest due to them showing up in the news.. Mizu Shochu recently sponsored the premier party of HBO’s & Tom Donahue’s documentary “Casting By” and was highlighted for the tasty “Sting” bloody mary made with their shochu. Though my mixed drinks are “chef’s choice” I do hope that I get to try the Sting on Friday. Chef for this event is Raphael Reyes, who may be either this accomplished bartender or this former president of Columbia. Either way I am pretty excited.
Sakamai certainly keeps an active event calendar. Besides the biweekly shochu tastings with Stephen Lyman they also put on plenty of events such as this one tomorrow. If I had one complaint it’s that I seem to find out about these events really late, so often I don’t get a chance to go. If work cooperates tomorrow, I hope to write about the event. Regardless, I wanted to pass on the opportunity to our readers.
Image Courtesy of the Sake Social Club of LA
Sake Summer Slam
A much as it pains us here at Shochu Distilled, often many of the best shochu tastings are done on the side by sake organizations. The Social Sake Club is having a tasting event featuring many different types of shochu and sake at the Doubletree hotel at 120 S. Los Angeles St. on August 17th. Cost is $40 if you register before July 26th, $50 afterwards, or $60 at the door. Their website is a bit light on details as no information is given about how many or what shochu distilleries are participating in the event. That said, the event is having a Sake & Shochu Queen USA contest and attendees get to vote. Voting for a pageant queen alone should ensure that this will be a fun way to spend the afternoon. Beyond this, attendees are encouraged to attend wearing a kimono!
Nascar Driver Akinori Ogata
Akinori Ogata’s car
So the confusion as to how big the Japan Block party was stemmed from the fact that this was two separate block parties in 1. There was a 1 block fair focused specifically on Japanese restaurants, products and charities like Table for 2. Continuing on for another 6 blocks was the standard NY street fair. Think Canoli, Mozzarepas, NY Times subscriptions, and discount rugs. Not sure why these two fairs were held together, but it definitely diluted the Japan block fair experience. The food was amazing, with the perfect combination of street fair with Japanese food going to Japadog. In a nod to the pre-Bloomberg, pre-Giuliani New York, many vendors even served beer, though it was Kirin Free so as to keep with local ordinance banning alcohol from these types of public events.
Beyond all of the great food, NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata was on hand. I have to admit, when I first read that he was coming, my reaction was “he’s coming to do what?” He actually hung out with everyone and was incredibly accessible. The entire time I attended the event, he was out among the crowd talking about both NASCAR and racing in general. In a New York where celebrities either at worst have an attitude, or at best simply prefer being left alone, a NASCAR driver spending his afternoon chatting with people off the street was a refreshing experience.
So this week information about the East Village Japan Block Party was finally posted. Starting with the bad news, it looks like there are no vendors selling shochu. The good news is that this street fair looks far more interesting than the Mozarella Arepas, NY Times subscription, 3 dollar socks booths that I normally experience at street fairs in New York. The event starts at 12pm and lasts until 5pm. The location is on 3rd avenue from 7th street to St. Marks Place.
There will be a stage for Japanese singers and dancing acts. What’s a bit odd is that the stage is supposedly setup on 3rd Avenue between 13th and 14th street. It taken literally this would put the stage 5 blocks away from the food. Potentially the street fair is a 7 block party instead of a 1 block party. I think if you make it to St. Marks Place, it should be easy to see where the party is at. Once you find the stage, note that acts will be performing only from 12-4pm. If you arrive too late, you’ll miss the entertainment. Beyond the singers and dancers, NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata will be in attendance. It’s not really stated what he’ll be doing or how accessible he’ll be for the Japanese NASCAR fans out there.
The biggest plus is the food. There are over 25 vendors signed up providing food and drink. Classics such as okonomiyaki, yakisoba, Japanese curry, sushi, and tea are to be had. It’s supposed to almost 80 degrees tomorrow, so if you need to cool off, do it with tea from Table for Two. Not only will it re-hydrate you, but you’ll also be contributing to a good cause.
Our friends at Table For 2 brought to our attention a Japan Block Party that is coming on Saturday, June 15th. It’s on 3rd Avenue between 7th street and St. Mark’s Place. Details of the event are extremely scarce, so much so that I almost didn’t submit this post for lack of anything to say. The presenter’s website only promise to have “Products, Food, and Performances.” Not only do they not mention what the exhibitors are, they do not even mention start and finish times. The one saving grace of this block party is the fact that if the event is a total bust, at least you are around the corner from St. Mark’s Place. Given the location, I think the attendees alone will make this worth stopping by. As specifics reach the web, I’ll update the post. If you do attend, do stop by the stand for Table for 2 and buy a drink. It’s a great Tokyo based charity that is doing a lot of good.
This news comes to us from our friends at Second City Style. As a big fan of shochu, punch bowls, and the city of Chicago, I couldn’t help but pass this along. The restaurant Roka Akor, located in the River North neighborhood of chicago, has a new special starting this week. On Wednesdays, from 5-7pm, For $25 per person you can enjoy sushi trays created by executive sushi chef Brett Vibber. Shochu based fruit infused punches are created by mixologist Jason Huffman. The initial review by Second City Style was quite positive. If you find yourself in the river north neighborhood of Chicago on a Wednesday, this looks worth trying out.
456 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
Neighborhood: River North
Japan Day Art Award Presentation
Japan Day NYC 2013
Today was Japan Day in Central Park. Given that the festivities were in a park in NY, there was no Shochu to be found. That said, it was still a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful weather.. Things started off with a 4 mile race at 8AM this morning. It was a great race, with a great T-Shirt. If anyone is reading, please do us a favor and drop the cotton and upgrade to Dri-Fit. If you had a tolerance for lines, after the race there were tents with Okonomiyaki, Ramen, Gyoza, and Miso Soup. Teas’ Teas was line free and handed out drinks as fast as people could take them, though they showed up with their Half and Half line only. If you like sweetened Tea, then Half and Half may be for you, but having tried a couple of flavors, I found them both to be too sweet for my tastes.
Beyond the food tents, there were a lot of activities for the kids. There was caligraphy and Origami lessons were popular and the Hello Kitty photo booth and Kabuki face painting made for many photogenic moments. The only activity that left me confused was the “Yo-Yo fishing.” Essentially you have to hook balloons as the float in a pool. It’s harder than it looks.
Besides the initial race, the main draw were the performances on the main stage. MINE, Kai Rivera, Yosakoi Dance Project 10tecomai and Japanese Folk Dance Institute of NY performed dance routines and Emi Meyer, Kylee, and Christ Hart sang. My favorite of the day were taiko performances by Taiko Masal and Soh Daiko. The taiko and shamisen are by far my favorite Japanese instruments. If you ever get a chance to attend a concert for one of these insruments, it should not be missed.